Intelligence: January 6, 2004

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Israel recently arrested two Arab-Israeli brothers and accused them of spying for the Lebanon base Hizbollah terrorist organization. But there's a lot more to it, as the brothers were actually in the drug smuggling (from Lebanon) and distribution (in Israel) business. Hizbollah had long used illegal drug production and sales to fund its activities. Hizbollah got the two brothers to spy for them by offering attractive compensation in the from of drugs from Lebanon, and customers inside Israel. This is not an unusual arrangement. Terrorists have long been known to use the drug trade for fund raising, and obtaining needed equipment and information. One of the few exceptions to this is Iran, which instead persecutes the drug business. This is mainly because addiction is a growing problem within Iran. Iranian intelligence officers will still do deals with drug gangs, but only when there is no other way to obtain critical information, and with the understanding that such deals are one-off, and that Iran and the drug gangs are still at war. But Saddam Hussein and the Afghan Taliban both used the drug business for fund raising, and made use of the extensive support network the drug gangs created to obtain needed intelligence. Since illegal drug dealing is, at least technically, illegal everywhere on the planet, any successful illegal drug operation has to build an effective intelligence organization in order to stay in business. The United States is at a disadvantage in this area because Congress and the media jump all over the CIA, FBI or DEA if they cut any deals with drug gangs to obtain information. Despite the risks, American intelligence organizations have occasionally been getting down and dirty with drug gangs to obtain essential information on terrorist operations. Eventually, some intrepid reporter will get the details on one of the operations and the resulting frenzy of indignation will make it harder to use these sources. To fight the devil, you don't have to join him, but you do sometimes have to deal with his minions.

 


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